Cannabis: Decriminalisation NOT Legalisation

The content originally appeared on: The Anguillian Newspaper

For some time now, the issue of decriminalisation and legalisation of cannabis has been topical in Anguilla and elsewhere. It was a key pillar of the Anguilla Progressive Movement’s (APM’s) 2020 campaign platform and garnered much support, especially among Anguilla’s youth.
Speaking to the issue at the government’s press briefing on Monday, April 4, Minister of Social Development, Ms. Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers, stressed the point that her Ministry had always sought to decriminalise cannabis, not legalise it.
She said: “I have been very clear from the beginning – from campaigning, to being in office, to the public consultations that I have had in the House of Assembly – to say that we are not going towards legalisation. We are actually looking at decriminalisation.”

She shared that her reason for talking repeatedly about decriminalisation, rather than legalisation, is based on her knowledge of the International Convention on Narcotics. “As a non-serve governing territory, we [in Anguilla] are not allowed to simply go into legalising marijuana. That is something independent territories can do because they have that ambit,” she noted.
“I can say, with full assurance, that legalisation is not simply a matter for governments. This is a matter that falls under international treaties such as the 1971 International Convention on Narcotics.

“That Convention, which the UK signed to and extended to, all of her Overseas Territories (OT), speaks to the legalisation of cannabis specifically. It gives scope to the signatories, and who they extend their treaties to, to create frameworks around what the decriminalisation of cannabis would look like in those territories.
“The situation in all the OTs is that, while we can work with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to determine what decriminalisation looks like, it is unlikely – given the framework of the Convention on Narcotics – that if the United Kingdom has not yet taken the step to legalise marijuana, that we can simply take the step to legalise marijuana without going through a conversation and getting asent and permission from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to do so.”

Minister Kentish-Rogers stated that her intent is to move forward with a proposal to decriminalise cannabis, noting that it would be done in a phased-in manner – starting with possession, and looking into the frameworks for medical use and cultivation.

“Decriminalising is something that we can look into doing, and it is something we intend to do. It’s just about the methodology used to get to decriminalising. Those are still things that we are examining, – trying to do them properly so that we can get them passed and through regulations.”